Muddling through the blogosphere

May 24, 2009
by blogwalker

More Gifts from the Nat’l Council for Teachers of English!

I’m surprised that my MS Word spellchecker continues to underline literacies.  It’s been more than a year since  the National Council for the Teachers of English President Kylene Beers posted a definition of 21st century literacies, moving away from what had for decades been a word that existed in singular form only. I’ve probably referred teachers to this link almost as many times as I’ve recommended visiting NCTE’s wonderful Read, Write, Think site. And for colleagues who ask me about research on writing in a digital age, I refer them to Kathleen Yancey’s Writing in the 21st Century report. I’ve also recently joined NCTE’s English Companion Ning, where I have opportunities to join such groups as the upcoming discussion of Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It.

But wait, here comes one more huge gift to teachers from NCTE: The National Gallery of Writing :

To celebrate composition in all its forms, we are inviting diverse participants –students, teachers, parents, grandparents, service and industrial workers, managers, business owners, legislators, retirees and many more — to submit a piece of writing to the which will be a digital archive of samples that exhibit how and why Americans are writing every day, accessible to all through a free, searchable website.”

Thank you, NCTE!  I’m working on a multimedia essay right now (A Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom, a piece inspired by Ernest Morrell’s keynote at last summer’s NCTE Conference on 21st Century Literacies) that I hope to soon submit to the Gallery.

July 22, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE Keynote with Ernest Morrell

Ernest Morrell is opening the session with 4 discussion questions:

  • What will be demanded of students in terms of literacy in the 21st century
  • In what ways is the nature of literacy changing?
  • How should the discipline of English change in response to the changes in literacy?
  • What are the ways that your students practice literacy when they are not in class?
    • filmmaking
    • video games
    • virtual worlds – adopting different identities


  • “Historical Memory” – Important to teach students that once they post something, it’s there forever
  • Very complicated now to figure out what is reliable information
  • Switching from the “you need to learn to do this by yourself” to “you need to learn to do this collaboratively.”

Dynamic, challenging time for teaching English and literacy – and meeting increased literacy demands. Teaching 21st century literacies can help us to address many of these challenges while providing opportunities for youth to produce socially and academically powerful texts in ways that were not previously possible – democratizing access to literacy.

Big Question: Motivating students – Expectancy Value Theory of Motivation – 1) Motivation is measure of how confident you are in your ability to perform a task and 2) motivation is measure of how relevant the task is to you. Value + Expectancy = Motivation


Elementary Students: Teatro- Theater of the Oppressed (Pablo Freire)- Education for humanity’s sake. Elementary students out of Watts neighborhood of L.A. doing tableau on violence in their neighborhoods. Actors (students) then invite audience in to dialogue. Students were producing both academic text and socially relevant text.

11th Grader English Students – Great Gatsby unit on critical media literacy & the American Dream. Students analyzing images in 50 Cent and Seventeen and learning to read images. Between the gangster image and glamour image, teens die due to inability to read the media. Critical media literacy is a citizenship skill! The American Dream tied to wealth, not citizenship. Assignment = counter media campaign (e.g., female athletes, tough guy tutoring younger students) If you don’t like the media, make a new media – that’s the difference with 21st century literacy. Students must learn to de-construct images – and to create their own.

Critical media production: documentary filmmaking – ( – Students documenting cultures of their communities. Link between academic literacy and documentary filmmaking. Students become experts on their topics. Requires a high level of literacy to produce a documentary.

Teaching film and television:

  • Watching a film in English/Language Arts class (The Odyssey/Godfather example). Using an epic text that talks about ideology of western civilization. Students use analysis of film to inform their analysis of text. Looking at camera angles to “privilege” certain characters. Having students write essays around popular culture.
  • Spoken word and hip-hop in the English classroom – If young people are engaged with it, it’s important to talk about. Hip-hop reflects problems we have in society. It’s one of the few youth-created popular cultural forms. Involves complex uses of language and literacy. The Poet in Society Unit – poetry is cool again. But everything we do is mediated by the poetry of our time. Think of T.S. Elliot as a social activist, writing apocalyptic poetry about the demise of civilization. Assignment: comparing Grand Master Flash to T.S. Elliot.

Involving students in researching their own communities, with goal of making world a better place. Using an Inconvenient Truth, for example, as a key piece, moving kids beyond their own issues to issues of world. Engaging in research to make the world a better place = Youth Voices.

Critical Minds Project: English class for 9th grade, low-performing students – “A Day in My Life” was first prompt for these east L.A. students. Turned essays in photo essays > digital film.

“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” Marshall McLuhan

“The question is not whether English will change, but how it will change.” Ernest Morrell

To see Ernest’s PowerPoint: (user=profmorrell; password=morrell).

I’ll send out a Tweet as soon as I’ve uploaded the podcast for the session.

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